Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I am an Author

I am an author!

Many of you know me as Mrs. O’Neal, the music teacher, or Madame Executive Secretary from ASAA, or Madame Conductor from the Rutgers Alumni Wind Symphony, or Sister O’Neal from church, or simply, Nan.

 But today I’d like to introduce myself as Nanette O’Neal, Author.

My debut novel, A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe will be published early 2016!

Why Write a Novel? We live in a world with decaying values. The family is in danger of crumbling, and people have lost the ability to believe in something greater than what they see. Many people insist there is no God, and yet, they are starving for a savior. They search in vain, often wandering in the dark, not knowing where to find solace. But there are spiritual truths out there, ones that are eternal to the soul, if we can simply recognize them. They are values that each of us were born with and are searching to find again. A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe is a story which uses the genre of fantasy to bring to the forefront the principles we inherently know are true. It allows us to remember them, to reconnect with them, and it points us in the direction of our eternal home.

Who will enjoy it? This book has a potentially large market because of its genre in fantasy and its references to family values. If you are a child between the ages of nine and twelve years old who reads fantasy adventure stories, you will love this book. If you enjoy an exciting ride through magical worlds with heroes to root for and villains to fear, this book is for you. Parents can read this book to their children and discuss the values and principles of right and wrong, peppered throughout the story. It is meant to be a teaching tool to bring families closer together and to supplement the principles of righteousness in the home. Lastly, for those who crave stories that emulate gospel-centered themes like faith, family, sacrifice, and redemption, this is your book. Within the plot lies symbolism that points to the time-honored standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, reaffirming our need for something greater to believe in.

Brief Story Overview: Robyn and Kit are twelve-year-old best friends who share everything—except a dreaded secret. They were born with forbidden magic-sense, the ability to see and hear beyond Earthly sight and sound. It’s been called a curse, but Robyn and Kit are strangely drawn to it—could there be more to this power than they’ve been told?

When their secret spills out, it opens a doorway back to Forever—a beautiful realm where magic-sense began. They learn the truth, how this gift is noble. It connects them to the Skyborn royalty of this world. They’ve been summoned back by the forces for good to preserve the kingdom and revive the power where it once flourished—on Earth. It can thrive again, if Robyn and Kit are brave enough to follow.

However, the doorway awakens more than magical fairy-tales. A dark force is unleashed—one that has battled the Skyborn since time began, and it wants the girls dead, the Earth destroyed.

Beyond the doorway is where the adventure begins—trickery, kidnapping, a prison break, rescue teams, sword fights, magical gold-dust, holographic medallions, and singing orbs—but only for those who have the courage to believe.

First in a series: A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe is the first in a series of seven books designed to awaken readers to their spiritual nature. The other books in the series retain the first part of the title, after which they are distinguished as follows:

Believe: Every great warrior begins by taking a stand

Trust: Many are called. Few are chosen.

Defend: The Skyborn world will no longer be silent.

Honor:  How far will a prince go to honor your name?

Remember: In the Before-Time, everything made sense.

Restore: Magic-sense will never be taken away again.

Become: Do you have the courage to become what you once were?

Be an Elite Skyborn Warrior. If you follow my blog (enter your email at the top right) you will receive periodic updates on the release of my debut novel. I will give away a free pdf copy prior to launch for anyone who wishes to read and post a review on Amazon. Those who post a review will be entered in a drawing for free stuff on the day of my launch. Will you be an Elite Skyborn Warrior? Be the first to join!

My Doorway is always open,

Nanette O’Neal, Author

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo complete. Ahead, warp factor one!

50,279 words later, I completed my first draft of book three in my series, A Doorway Back to Forever. I used the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as a launching pad for this endeavor, and I must say it was a great exercise in using my Captain Kirk brain! I read a fantastic analogy about the two different brains we have as writers. It differentiates between the brain we useto  write and the one used to edit. I've heard that one of the reasons a person never finishes a novel is because they are constantly in editing mode, and therefore never get to a level of completion. The analogy used resonated strongly with my Star Trek connection, talking about the Captain Kirk brain vs. the Mr. Spock brain.

Captain Kirk was all action. He would get in there and get it done. He would out think, out bluff, out smart, out fight anyone and everyone to save lives and to keep galactic peace. This is what we call the writer’s brain. I began a rough outline of beats which I needed to hit, and when I sat down to write, it was all Kirk. I got in there and got it done, scene by scene. Any revising or editing would be saved for the moment I was ready to turn on my Mr. Spock brain.

 Mr. Spock, was the thinker in Star Trek. He would analyze all angles of a situation, use logic and intellect, then ponder and debate before arriving at a conclusion. This is what we do when we edit. We go back, we re-read, we look for loop holes, we expand on characterization, plot arcs, all while keeping the story structure intact. It's a beautiful thing. It's worth the wait. 

Now that Captain Kirk has made his move, Spock can discover the whys and the hows to make this story great.

I'm grateful for the ability to recognize the two different processes because they really help me get my writing done. Without it, I couldn't have pulled off an average of 2500 words a day on it. 

I now have two solid novels to edit. Book two is called A Doorway Back to Forever: Trust. Book three is called A Doorway Back to Forever: Defend.

My next move is to publish book one, A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe. It was conceived nine years ago, given serious work only over the last five years, and is now ready to make its debut. I'll be sending more info on that as it comes along. Thanks for believing in me!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Faith and Inspiration: Standing Strong through the Storm

Life as a valiant Christian is becoming more controversial in these latter-days. As the world trends toward social and political issues as its standard, religious doctrine takes a back seat. When scriptures are no longer pondered, doctrine is no longer studied, and church leaders are passed off as out of touch, people lose their personal and eternal bond with God. Indeed, sometimes in their efforts to reconcile the world’s definition of gospel truths, their relationship with God is skewed, disconnected, forgotten, even resented.

Noah was right. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the truth of this statement. But before the flood came, no one saw it.

I’ve been writing a series of articles in LDS Blogs about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I did so in answer to our prophet’s call to renew our dedication to Sabbath day observance and make it more of a priority in our lives. Of all the things the church leaders could be telling us to do, they chose Sabbath Day observance as the most important priority. Here’s why I think that is so.

Sabbath day observance involves repentance, partaking of the sacrament to renew our covenants with the Savior, and dedicating the day in remembrance of Jesus Christ. On days when I’ve been really good at following this direction, I’ve felt a cleanliness and holiness about me unlike any other day. I’m renewed and strengthened. I’m enlightened as I have his spirit to be with me.

Now imagine a world full of faithful, dedicated, followers of Christ, making that same commitment. Imagine the power of an army of clean and reverent hearts, battling the spiritual temptations and blows from Satan. No other power on earth can combat the adversary, and only through the power of God’s holy Priesthood can we overcome sin and death. When that power is multiplied on a massive level, there is nothing Satan can do to overturn God’s plan. Unleashing an army of faithful followers of Christ is truly the only way to win against the adversary and make a difference in the world.
Our prophet is inspired. We can show our dedication to him by following him, standing tall, and keeping our connection to God strong and resolute.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG November Entry: When the Student Is Ready ...

Thanks to the Insecure Writers Support Group, I get to express my feelings about writing once a month in the hopes that it may inspire me, or others, to press on!

 It seems that around every first Wednesday of the month, I begin to see more inspirational messages about writing. It’s as if the Holy Spirit shakes a measure of good cheer over the earth, which finds its way to the internet, exactly when I need it. Hmm … is there a deeper message here?

There is an old Asian saying that states, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” I firmly believe this philosophy, as I’ve seen it manifest plainly in my writing life. It is the philosophy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if we don’t recognize it at first. But it is there for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

When I wanted to write a novel, my good friend, Terrie Bittner, who was an author in her own right, directed me to the Writing Great Fiction series, and so my studies began.

When I wrote my first draft and needed to take the next step, Terrie introduced me to iWriteNetwork, an online group of writers helping writers, and I met Tristi Pinkston, a fabulous author and accomplished editor. I began to put myself out there, go to workshops, chat online, and I kept studying. Tristi helped me see the flaws in my work and directed me toward improvement.

When I needed to find a critique group, Donna K. Weaver invited me to join Pied Pipers from the David Farland’s Writing Group, and I got some amazing feedback from other, more accomplished writers. She then introduced me to American Night Writers Association, or ANWA, an online support group for LDS women writers. Between these two groups, I received hands-on help which propelled my novel to the next level.

When I finally felt my novel was “ready” I went back to Tristi for a final edit, and she actually used phrases like “enjoying  your rewrite,”  "improvement is inspiring,” "you've grown so much as a writer," and “proud of you,” in describing my revision. It took me a while to pick myself up off the floor, but I did.

When I said to myself, “I know nothing about publishing and marketing—it will take me a year, at least, to learn the basics,” Kary Oberbrunner contacted me about being my publishing coach. I checked out his Author’s Academy Elite and realized it is what I’ve needed all along to market the Doorway series properly.

And so again, I see—when the student is ready, the teacher will come. I am so blessed to see the teachers in my life, how they have been in tune with the spirit, how they were there for me even when they didn’t realize it.

When we humble ourselves enough to acknowledge our weaknesses, we are open to the help and hope that is waiting to lift us up. It is the story of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, a story that has been around forever. I find my inspiration from my faith, and it keeps me positive, determined, and driven toward excellence. I know I can, because I know who I am.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Doorway Monday: NaNoWriMo and Milestones to report!

Celebrating a <b>Milestone</b> | Steve Biddison

 It is November 2015, and I have an announcement to make—I’ve got MORE MILESTONES to report.

A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe (book one in the series) has just passed through its final edit! This was a project that began as an idea nine years ago. It lay dormant for five years while I tended to family matters, and in 2012 I picked it up again for real. Now, after four years, I can confidently say I am ready for publication!

A Doorway Back to Forever: Trust (book two in the series) is in its third re-write. This is huge for me. I completed the first draft around August and have gone back through it in the re-write process. I’ve found it’s easier for me to 1.) Get the main points of the plot down first. 2.) Go back and check for general flow problems. 3.) Add depth to the characters, storyline, scenes, etc. 4.) Repeat step three as often as it takes.

I had learned this from some of my aviation artist friends in how they work a painting. Layering for me is the perfect imagery for creating art, and I’ve relied on it heavily in my work. It applies in the individual books as well as the larger arch of the series. So far, it’s working well enough to get me to my next milestone …

A Doorway Back to Forever: Defend (book three in the series) is my NaNoWriMo challenge! (National Novel Writing Month) I’ve wanted to do NaNo correctly for two years now, but I was never at a point in my writing career to start a new novel during the month of November. I’m so happy to say that this year, I am ready! I wrote out the beats last week, and I’m really pleased with the way the story is going. My biggest fear was that it would be a repeat of the previous books, but happily, I have a distinct idea for each book in the series so far. Defend was causing me a bit of grief up until a month ago. I worked out some plot ideas with a good friend and I’m excited to report, Defend will stand on its own!

Nanette O’Neal’s Doorway—I’m finally confident enough as a writer to be a regular contributor to my own blog. Frankly, I never felt comfortable sending out blog posts about my novel until now. The change—I got some uplifting comments from my editor about Believe that have given me the confidence to call myself a writer. With that, I will be blogging weekly on this page. Each week will have a different focus:

Week one: Doorway Monday—updates on the progress of my book series, with either news about the development of the idea, symbolism in the fantasy world, or general updates on publication.

Also week one: IWSG entry—this is the post where we, who are members of the insecure Writer’s Support Group, post every Wednesday to help support each other when we feel distressed over the writing process. Usually, I find my IWSG entries to be more positive because by the time I sit to write them, I’m determined not to be negative! It helps to have that push, even if I’m the one doing the pushing.

Week two: LDS Blog update—I write a weekly column for LDS Blogs each week. It is very uplifting to me to be able to do this. I know I’ve felt the spirit of the Lord bless me for my contribution. It’s like giving service to people in need, only this is through the internet and it involves inspirational articles. So, during week two in my blog I will link to a past LDS Blog article and write a little about why I decided to focus on this topic.

Week three: Doorway Monday—more updates. If I have nothing new to say, I may skip this week. But hopefully, I will have some publishing news to tell you about … soon!

Week four: fun stuff—those who know me, know I’m a huge fan of Star Trek, Star Trek Continues, band, karate, hiking, working out, crafts, and I’m a huge fan of my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I’ll reserve the fourth week for miscellaneous articles for the fun of it.

So, that’s it, folks! I hope you’re as excited as I am about these milestones, and the places they will take me! I hope many of you will come along for the ride—the Doorway is always open!


Friday, October 30, 2015

A Tribute to Basil

The second I heard his adorable, tiny meow from the wood pile, I knew he was mine. A scrawny, stray kitten, no bigger than a slipper, with black and grey stripes, muffled fur, and one eye half shut like the Bloom County character, Bill the Cat. He came right to me, cuddled like a puppy, and kneaded my chest. Then he purred, and my life changed forever. He claimed me as his mommy. And so, I brought him in and named him Basil.

 At first we kept him in the garage in a makeshift den of blankets, a pillow, and my softest sweatshirt, until I could purchase some cat things for him. He curled right up in my sweatshirt and slept. When I went to visit him with food and water he meowed a welcome, cuddled at my feet and practically begged to be held. I stayed with him to make him feel comfortable and took him outside with me when I did yard work. He followed me like a puppy.

I had him checked out at the vet, and after some shots, an ear cleaning, and some eye medication, Basil was really shaping up. He was eating well, filling out like a healthy little guy, and purred louder each day. When the temperature dipped below freezing, we moved his den into our bedroom, but he preferred to curl up on the bed, especially at night. I never had a kitten sleep on my chest. It’s about the next best thing to having an infant—warm, loving, and mine.

But the dogs were going to be a problem. They never had a cat before, and they didn’t take to the neighbor’s. Nikki had already proven to be a predator in the past. Would she be able to love a cat?

We carefully began to introduce the dogs to the new member of the family. They were curious, but on high alert. As long as I kept them separated and monitored their time together, it looked like it might work.

But alas, the bedroom door was not as secure as the garage door. Before I could save him, Basil was killed. I found both dogs standing over his lifeless body.

It was the most horrifying thing I had ever experienced. Maybe it would have been easier to accept if he wasn’t so cute, if he didn’t act like he loved me. Maybe if he didn’t run to my side or cry when I had to put him down to leave, I wouldn’t have cared so much. Maybe if he didn’t turn to meow at me while he ate his kitten chow, as if thanking me for his food. But he was no ordinary kitten. He was my Basil—as dear to me as the pets I’ve had for years. I had him for two weeks, but he felt like he had been part of me forever.

Michael made a wooden cross for him and we buried him near the pond out back. Michael said Basil would have died more tragically if we didn’t find him, and that we gave him the best two weeks of his life. Michael sure knows how to comfort a grieving mommy.

Basil taught me how wonderful cats can be. He taught me about love in a way I had never experienced. He taught me I can be a cat mommy in the future, maybe when the dogs are old and slow. He also taught me that forgiveness is sweeter than anger. I cried to Heavenly Father over Basil’s death, pleading with Him for Basil’s forgiveness. I felt it—coming from that sweet innocent animal on the other side of the veil. I prayed also to forgive my dogs for what they did. They knew I loved Basil. They saw me cuddle him, hold him, keep them at a distance from him. I wanted to get rid of both of them for what they did, but I actually felt Basil’s love pour over me, as if he had forgiven them. He taught me to forgive those who know not what they do.

Basil is in heaven with Mandy, my first and best dog. Mandy is telling Basil stories about me and Michael, filling him in on how much we loved her and how much we will continue to love him. I may not be able to have another kitten in the near future, but I will always have an undying love for the one I owned for two weeks. Basil will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG October Entry: Highs and Lows

In the grand scheme of things, I'm doing really well.

 I'm progressing well with my Doorway series. My editor has sent me back some positive feedback on DBF: Believe (book one). I should have the corrections done by the end of the month--then I get to research traditional vs. indie publishing. Yum.

Book two, DBF: Trust, is in it's third draft. Hoping to complete the third draft by the end of the month.

Book three, DBF: Defend, is going to get its rough draft outline this month so I can write it in November during NaNoWriMo.

On the day to day things, I'm depressed.

 The highs and lows of being creative can be so intense. Salt Lake ComicCon and the iWriteNetwork retreat were so sweet and uplifting. Meeting my iWriteNetwork friends meant so much to me--to be around people who believe what I believe and write what I like is so encouraging. We as writers are in a secluded environment so when we see like-minded people, we are enriched. 

Meeting fans and actors of Star Trek Continues was very emotional. Star Trek meant so much to me growing up, and Star Trek Continues is a direct connection to a part of me that was always secure, alive, and full of hope. A large part of that had been lost for years. To have it back is like regaining the use of a limb. I can't get enough of that show!

So how does one balance the highs and lows? 

Remembering there is opposition in all things. We cannot fully appreciate the beautiful without seeing what is ugly. We cannot forgive without being hurt first in order to have a reason to forgive. We cannot start our climb from the top of the mountain--we need to fight the battle to get to the top where all things are then made clear. We need to understand that rewards are sweeter when hardships cut straight to the heart.

Thanks to the Insecure Writer's support Group for showing me that other people have the same struggles that I do. It helps in overcoming depression. It helps to know there is success out there, for me too, one day. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG September post: A Tiny Girl with a Giant Passion

Most every time I write for the Insecure Writer's Support Group on the first Wednesday of the month, I think to myself, "Wow, I have so much to be thankful for. So much has happened to help boost my spirit and lessen my insecurities." This is good. I'd rather celebrate the tender mercies in my life rather than murmur about my problems. (and I have many...but I'm determined to overcome them!)

This post is dedicated to Sarai, a tiny girl with a giant passion. I discovered her when I found the web series, Star Trek Continues, the greatest fan-based series around. It takes up where the original Star Trek left off. It is a mastermind of creativity, authenticity, and Roddenberry-esque stories. 

Sarai is a pint-sized Star Trek fan of monumental spirit. She has a Youtube channel called Sarai Trek, where she appears in her room--complete with a model USS Enterprise, Star Trek memorabilia, Star Trek original art and posters, and toys dressed in Star Trek uniforms. (I particularly like Woody dressed as Spock.) She, too, wears a Star Trek uniform shirt and she proceeds to give a detailed recap of her favorite episodes. The details she recites are exact in word and cadence. Her parents have edited in clips of the original episodes, showing the scene with Sarai's dialog on top. She's absolutely adorable. And for me, she is inspirational.

Sarai reminds me of me when I was little. I had a giant passion for Star Trek. I had the episodes memorized (and without dvd.) I had the toys and I dressed up my dolls in Star Trek uniforms. But I didn't have video to record it, or parents that loved it the way Sarai's do. But I had that same passion.

When I feel like the world is bearing down on me, when I feel alone in my writing passion, when I feel like giving up, I remember Sarai. She is single-minded in her love for something great. I feed off her passion and use it to remember-- my love for something great is larger than my fears. my dream for writing is as passionate as my love for Star Trek was when I was young, (still is), and I have a little girl with a giant passion pushing me onward. Thank you, Sarai! Ahead, warp factor one!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Milestones through the Doorway: Thank you, all who have been there.

 Yesterday I hit a milestone. I finished the first draft of my second book, A Doorway Back to Forever: Trust.

This is surreal. Nine years ago I had an inspiration to write a novel series based on my conversion story. It wasn't simply a book, it was an idea. A concept. A teaching tool. A pathway home. A doorway back to forever. I got an unmistakable confirmation from on high to proceed. Then, the obstacles came along.

A father  with cancer, a grandmother with Alzheimer's, surgery, and spiritual trials meant to drown my vision before it had a chance to float. I held on anyway.

I got some great advice to learn the craft of novel writing and the doorway was opened again--through workshops, writer's conferences and retreats, critique groups, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Book one is in it's final stages of edit. Book two made it through its first stage of writing, with the promise of successful rewrites, additions, and edits. Is this me I'm writing about? Yes.It.Is. I am a writer.

This milestone happens to coincide with a good friend of mine's passing of her defense for her doctorate in Art History. Of course, I can no way elevate my accomplishment to her level, but we did share thoughts on the similarities. Both are milestones. Both give us a sense of completion in areas where others had doubted our success. Both give us credibility. Wow.

Today is a day to celebrate. Tomorrow is Sunday and I will rest. I'll give my first draft a week to mill in my head and to give me a chance to get a few ldsblog articles done. But by September 7th, I will have  new doorways to open, more milestone to set.

I have to thank my Heavenly Father. He gave me the original inspiration and he showed me tender mercies along the way that have led me to this place. Thanks, Dad.

I have to thank my husband, who continues to believe that I am the greatest thing that ever happened to him, so he supports me in my crazy ideas. I love him more than I can say.

I have to thank my friends who have listened and put up with this idea for years. They never let me down, especially when I needed support. Thanks, Mieke, Janell, Terrie (across the veil), Mike, Ken, Heidi, Debra, Jim, Michelle,Jenna, Jesse, Grace, Rebecca, and all those I may have forgotten.

I have to thank my family. If not for Danielle, Katie, Tommy, Mom, Mike Jr. Kristen, Marlis, Kathy, it would all be a dream stuck inside my head. Thanks for helping me get it out.

I need to thank my critique groups and friends in iWriteNetwork, ANWA, Pied Piper's and Fans of Fantasy. . Especially Donna , Tristi, Jared, and Pam. Without you, this would not be worth telling. With your help, you've taught me how to tell it well.

Wow. You'd think I got it published! No, not yet--but I'm so grateful of where I am right now, I need to express it. Thank you, all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Heavenly Father Wants You to Write--thank you, Rhett!

(This was supposed to be posted in June...better late than never!)

Everyday, I roll out of bed and onto my hands and knees--a trick I taught myself years ago. Rolling onto the floor and then situating myself upright into a kneeling position next to the bed ensures a faithful morning prayer, uninterrupted by the dogs.

Last week I needed that uninterrupted prayer more than ever. Here's what happened.

My writing came to a halt in May. After completing a very successful A to Z challenge in April and swearing I'd get back into my story after the ASAA forum was over in mid-May (my day job), I learned a dear friend had succumbed to brain cancer. Between the exhaustion of the forum and the emotional trauma of my friend's death, my mind was wiped blank--was it writer's block or something worse? I was too numb to figure it out. 

I knew if I turned my dilemma over to the Lord, He would help me. He's done it in the past. I had full faith in Him to do it again because I needed his help. So I rolled out of bed, sat up on my knees, and prayed.  

The dogs left me alone. I poured my heart out. It was one of those moments where I needed affirmation of my story's worth. That can be the worst kind of question to ask, because what if the answer is, "Go back to your day job and hang up your writer's hat for good." The Holy Ghost usually does't answer me that way anyway, but when I'm dejected about my writing, my mind takes some funny twists and turns. I got up from my prayer and went about my routine. 

While checking Facebook, I found a blog posted on LDStorymakers. It was Rhett Wintch's article titled, "Heavenly Father Wants You to Write." He told his story--how he had been inspired to write, then went through the drudgery of learning how, and the endless rewrites and self-doubt that comes with such a lonely field of work. But it all paid off--success was in sight! "Qaplah! " ( for my Klingon compatriots!)

Answers don't usually come to me like a big brass band--loud and life changing. Nor do they come with such surety in direction, like a blog article that is seemingly addressed to me. Answers are usually small whispers of impressions to move forward or to wait with faith. This was a full-throated shout--Heavenly Father wants you to write. Heavenly Father wants me to write. Me. 

And write, I shall.

I don't know Rhett. But I know his story. and I'm determined to make mine take life as he did his. Thank you, Rhett, for the push I needed. It's time to fly.

IWSG July Blog: The emotions that walk with the idea

A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe is not a book series. It is an idea, a brand. It is not about getting a book out there. It’s about changing people’s lives. I’m waiting for a final edit before I submit it for publication. While I wait, I must respectfully give a nod to the emotions that have walked with me through the process.

Tired, but not conquered. Having an emotional relationship with an idea is every bit as tiring as a relationship with a real person—it requires work, give and take, you get hurt as much as you receive joy, and yet you still hang on. I’m tired after all these years of study and growth. It’s been like going back to college where you take class after class, not knowing if you’re getting passing grades until graduation. I’ve made four giant overhauls of the book and developed the idea to a greater degree than I even imagined. I see five to seven books in the series, supplemental books on the symbolism and gospel connections, motivational speaking engagements, multi-media entertainment—all within the parameters of missionary work. It’s become who I am. There’s no backing out of the doorway now—I have the courage to believe.

Angry, yet forgiving. I’ve had to disassociate myself from family members who have denigrated me for my religious choices. It is overwhelmingly difficult to deal with, since family is so important to me as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But it was necessary for my emotional survival. I am weak in that respect. I hurt, I cry, I feel so alone. Being in a denigrating environment was destructive to who I was, to the idea growing inside me. Yet one day my nieces and nephews will know I love them. Perhaps their own magic-sense will be rekindled and they will step through the doorway to discover more about who they are—and maybe they’ll find me waiting for them. 

Overwhelmed but focused. Emotional roller coasters can be overwhelming. I’ve needed time to withdraw and recuperate. One thing I’ve rediscovered is my love for Star Trek, the original series. Quite by accident, I stumbled upon Star Trek Continues, a web series that recreates the original series to a tee. Its purpose is to continue where the original left off, finishing the five year mission. The passion behind this series is amazing. The accuracy is brilliant, down to the details of the ship, the uniforms, and even the background music. The creators understood the intent of Gene Roddenberry so thoroughly, I believe he is channeled through each episode. In watching it, I’ve rekindled my love for Star Trek TOS and started watching the old series again too. It’s led me to a discovery—Star Trek was my saving grace at the age of Robyn and Kit in Doorway. It carried me through times of deep sorrow and loneliness. It was not just a TV series—it was an idea. The idea that mankind can overcome the evils of his nature, join together as a race, and explore the galaxy. I developed confidence and security through this vision. It was my gospel before I discovered the gospel. I personally wish to thank Gene Roddenberry when I see him on the other side of the doorway.

Compelled and driven. My book, to me, is like Star Trek was to Gene Roddenberry—an idea, a vision, a lifeline to those who will need it. I am compelled to finish it and to market it for what it is so that others may find a reason to hope.

I thank the Insecure Writer's Support Group IWSG, for giving me inspiration to get this far. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG May blog: Not so insecure anymore

Thanks again to the Insecure Writer's Support Group and the A to Z Challenge which they offer each year! I completed the challenge and felt very secure about it! Here are five things I learned:

1. Keeping a commitment is fulfilling. I've known this in so many aspects of life, but seeing it manifest in my writing has been a real thrill. 

2. Blog posts are more fun with pictures! 

3. Blog posts are even more fun with video clips! Sound and action make it all more meaningful.

4. I'm not alone. Writing can be a lonely profession, but it was so nice to have people read and comment on my posts. It made me feel part of a community of writers. *smiles*

5. Being connected to the writing community gives me purpose. I'm stoked to get back on target with my novel, and to continue blogging about what's important to me. Some of my favorite posts were the ones that had inspirational meaning. The world needs more positive energy. I for one am happy to provide it!

Now, onto the Doorway Back to Forever series. Let magic-sense lead you to your own Awakening!

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zone

Z is for Zone.

This A to Z Challenge took a lot of writing and thinking time, but it put me in the zone. I needed to get in the zone so I could rededicate myself to this craft of writing. Other people blog weekly—and now I feel I can count myself as one of them.

 A weekly blog will be easy, now that I’ve written daily here in this challenge. I want to thank the Insecure Writer's Support Group for offering this challenge each year. I never thought I’d do it. Now I don’t think I’ll ever stop! I’m in the zone!

Get in the zone—author zone, that is! Go write something awesome today!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Y is for Your Story

Y is for Your Story.

You have a story to tell. Only you can tell it.

Years before I started writing, I watched a movie where the little girl kept a music box locked away where no one could find it. Inside the box she hid all the songs she wished she could sing. I was very taken by the symbolism of this storyline, for I felt I had a voice that was also hidden in a box that no one would ever hear. That voice is my story.

You have a story too. It is a story that only you can tell. You’ve been protecting it for years, afraid someone would mock it or destroy it. So it has stayed hidden in you music box, and you are the only one who has the key.

Your story is worth telling. It is unique to your circumstances. You can give it voice like no one else. Even if you only share it with friends and family, it is worth writing because it is yours. 

Unlock your music box and let your story sing for all to hear!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A to Z Challenge: X is for Exactly the right time

X is for Exactly the right time.

Do you ever think life gets in the way of living your dreams? Do the if only thoughts discourage you in your daily activities—if only you had more time or energy to write, if only you didn’t have  to work a full time job, if only your kids weren’t all still in diapers—sound familiar? The if only thoughts can be very destructive.

A friend who is a member of my church would often say to the congregation, “You’re in the right place.” He said this to encourage people who had been struggling all week long so they would know that being in church was a good thing, taking the sacrament was a healing power that would cleanse and strengthen them, and that no matter what else was going on in their lives, being at church on Sunday was exactly the right thing to do.

In my writing, I have often wondered about the things that have “gotten in the way” of finishing my work in progress. Learning the craft was not a hindrance but a necessity. But other events that took place over the years were absolutely necessary too, even though I did not know that at the time. I realize now I was meant to be exactly where I was every step of the way. For instance, I left my full time job to write, but ended up caring for my father and grandmother who became ill. While I cared for them I could learn my craft and develop much needed skills. And the time I spent with them in their last several years was priceless to me.

Now I realize taking the A to Z Challenge was exactly the right thing to do too. It made me put myself out there in the blogger’s world, account for myself, and be more visible. I’m an introvert at heart, so anything that makes me stand out is painful—but it’s one of those necessities in the writing field if I ever wish to have my books sell. Now that I’ve been doing it, I kind of like it!

So X is for eXactly the right place at the right time. You are in exactly the right place in the right time in your life too. Don’t forget it! Now, go write something awesome today. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A to Z Challenge: W is for Worth. Is it worth it?

W is for Worth. Is it worth it?

Play it safe of take a risk? I decided to take the risk—and it’s been worth it, every step of the way.
About eight years ago I left a comfortable career to pursue my writing passion. It meant giving up so much in order to learn a new craft. I had to study again like a freshman in college, associate myself in a new circle of people, surrender my mind to endless plot ideas, characterizations, grammatical rules, and creative thinking. I gave up a secure way of life with a steady pay check, all because I had a story to tell. While I am so close to getting the first book published, I often think about what life will be like ten or fifteen years from now—after the series is complete. Will I have wonderful tales of endurance and perseverance to tell? I hope so—I’m keeping a log as I go.

I can’t predict the future, but there’s one thing I do know. If I decided not to take this risk, in ten years I would be ten years older and empty handed. My life is so much richer, so much fuller, all because I decided my story was worth it.

Your story is worth it too. Don’t give up. Take the necessary risks, and make your dream come true.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z Challenge: V is for Valiant

V is for valiant.

Bilbo Baggins came back to help the dwarves in their journey. He didn’t have to—but he did. When Thorin Oakenshield questioned why, Bilbo gave a most valiant answer.

We can sit back in life, knowing who we are, knowing where we’re going, and take comfort in our position, or we can open our eyes to those around us who are searching for the same comfort and know not where to find it. Bilbo was valiant—he chose to put his life in continuous danger so that others could reach home—a place he knew well, a place he knew others deserved to find.
What a great missionary moment!

A to Z Challenge: U is for Utterly Hopeless

U is for utterly hopeless.

When Thorin Oakenshield hung onto the fallen tree teetering precariously over the cliff with the other dwarves, and while the pale Orc, Azog, emerged from the fiery battle, he could not deny his fate any longer. Thorin had to face Azog, even though it was utterly hopeless. He left his perch to confront his opponent, and his inevitable death.

Thorin took the blows, but was no match for the giant dwarf-killer. What happened next was thrilling. When Thorin lay helpless and about to have his head taken by Azog’s minion, Bilbo Baggins left the tree, attacked the henchman orc and killed him.  

Then the rest of the dwarves took courage from this and joined in the fight. They held their own until the eagles came to rescue them all.

Sometimes we must face an utterly hopeless situation before we see the light that is waiting in the dark—waiting to swoop down and save us. In A Doorway Back to Forever; Believe, Robyn reaches an utterly hopeless situation. She has to draw on the skills she has seen in order to win. It’s the only way she can gain courage to believe.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z Challenge: T is for Telestial...or Tallisete

T is for Telestial…or Tallisete

Tallisete is Robyn’s provincial hometown. The neighbors are friendly, the corner bakery is a meeting place for the veterans in town, the park has old-fashioned playground equipment from an era gone by. It’s the last refuge for the Skyborn travelers seeking peace from the Bloodborn recruits—but Robyn has yet to learn why.

Tallisete will grow and change as the series progresses, much like Robyn will. So the name reflects that progression, much like the levels of glory that Paul described in First Corinthians:

 There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; of one star differeth from another star in glory. ~1 Cor. 15:40-41.

Christ laid out the three degrees of glory in a vision to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon:

These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun…And again we saw the terrestrial world…whose glory differs from that of the church of the Firstborn…even as that of the moon differs from the sun in the firmament. And again we saw the glory of the telestial, which is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. ~D&C 76:70, 71, 81.

Celestial sun, terrestrial moon, telestial stars—they all have a role in the story. But in A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe, we start with the telestial, or Tallisete.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z Challenge: S is for Song of the Orb

S is for Song of the Orb

When I taught instrumental music, the kids loved to play movie themes. The more simple the melody, the more likely it could be arranged for all levels of musicians. One year, fifth graders begged me to play the theme from James Bond—intricate rhythms, tough intervals to hit on a stringed instrument, complicated melody and bass line—but they were psyched. I can’t say it came off perfectly in tune, but I can say they had a blast pushing themselves to learn it!

I decided early on to include music in my story. Music is a powerful tool for good or evil, depending on its message and nature. I want this story to point in the direction of hope, and so the song had to be uplifting.

The orb sings a message of eternity. The melody is haunting, but the lyrics tell the story of faith that is inherent in the series.

Listen, now to the Song of the Orb
Believe it whispers wisdom
Trust your heart to follow its path,
Defending the royal kingdom.

                                         Honor the gift that was given to you.
                                         Remember your promise there.
                                        Restore the truth to its glorious end,
                                       Becoming a royal heir.

I chose a simple melody so that anyone can learn it quickly. The meter is common time. It's set in a minor key, beginning with a leap up to a major 5th , then slowly descends down the minor scale back to the tonic. The notes stay within a few steps of a natural minor scale—not too high, not too low—easy for a beginner to play on an instrument, easy to sing as a solo or in a chorus. I wish I had a recording of it to share, but that’s for another day.

At least you can read through the lyrics and find whatever meaning that brings peace to your soul. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z Challenge: R is for Robyn

R is for Robyn.

 This past winter’s single digit temperatures robbed me and my dogs of our daily walks. When I did brave the elements that held on with white-knuckled tenacity, I could hardly call it a walk. Even the month of March went out like a lion, biting at my legs, gnawing at my cheeks. No relief in sight.

Then the robins came.

My limbs were stiff but my heart danced with joy—the intrepid robins were everywhere—trumpeting the gallant victory call—spring was around the corner!

Winter’s sleep is awakened by the promise of a life-giving spring. We know this, but we forget when we are paralyzed by the cold. If we can hang on until the robin comes, we’ll see the sure sign—the harbinger brings the promise of  warmth and renewal.

One of my main characters is named Robyn. She is much like the bird—sent to herald a new beginning. But my Robyn must learn courage before she can bring the morning to a world gripped by midnight. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Q is for Question

Q is for Question

I was the black sheep of my Sunday School class. I didn't want to be. I was just curious. Little did I know, my curiosity made me an outcast in my own religion.

My family was Greek Orthodox. We were a faithful church-attending family. As a youngster, I loved learning about Jesus and I knew he loved me. I held my breath when the incense got too strong, and I sang the hymns in Greek, not knowing the language. While I loved the lessons from the Bible I felt disconnected with the outward culture and doctrine in the Greek Church. It didn't help that we weren't actually Greek—my father was Egyptian and he would have raised us in the Egyptian Orthodox (Coptic) faith had there been one in the area at the time we were born. So, the cultural disconnect was very real. I didn’t feel like I fit in.

 I was the one with the weird questions: Why do we baptize babies when Christ was baptized as an adult? Why are there so many churches? Why are they all so different?

The question that set me apart as the black sheep also set me on the path to knowledge.

This was the question: If we need to be baptized to go to heaven, what will happen to my Jewish friend when she dies? After all, it was not her fault that she was born in a Jewish family. Why would God punish her for not being raised in a Christian home? And for that matter, what about all the people in the jungles of South America who never got a chance to even hear about Christ? What would happen to them?

They had no good answer. I felt alone in a church full of elites who were perfectly happy, sure of their ticket to heaven, while other people lived their lives unaware of their inevitable eternal punishment. I was only eight years old when I asked the question about my Jewish friend. When I realized their answer meant she would not make it to heaven, it changed me. I matured that day—and I was determined to find a God that loved everyone equally, regardless of circumstance.

A question can be a weapon of destruction. It can break a barrier that others never meant to be broken. But once through that barrier that same question can lead to more questions which lead to truths that were there all along—they just needed to be discovered.

A question can be a tool of construction. The more we ask, the more we learn, the more we build. We encourage children to ask questions—we should not be afraid of the questions they ask.

In A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe, Robyn is obsessed with Magic-Sense, the ability to see and hear beyond earthly sight and sound. Her questions lead her to answers beyond the doorway. 

In a sense, Robyn’s quest is much like mine when I decided to search for the kind of church that was no respecter of persons. In finding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a doorway was opened for me into a world that transcends earthly sight and sound. Hmmm….Robyn may be onto something beyond fantasy. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z Challenge: P is for Prison Break!

P is for Prison Break!

Kit gets captured by a henchman from the Dark Lord, Sylvare—but she’s not about to stay in prison. Her cell mates give her the desperate news: they’re waiting for the Clearing, a time when prisoners are paraded in a large arena and given a choice—join Sylvare or be eaten by wild dragons. That’s enough for Kit to find a way to escape before her time for the Clearing is set. All the other prisoners are too weak and afraid to go with her, except for one girl, Amelia. Kit and Amelia make a run for the bridge back to Forever.

The henchmen discover they’re missing and the girls race to stay ahead of the guards. But they get separated—Kit has no idea if Amelia makes it to the bridge. She has to face the darkness of Midnight alone…or does she?

Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z Challenge: O is for Orb

O is for Orb

Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket. 

Luke Skywalker had the Force. 

Whether it’s a children’s story about a puppet following the wisdom of a cricket or a science-fiction action film where the hero is guided by the Force, the timeless theme of listening to the still small voice abounds in our culture. Being in tune with your conscience is an art, discerned as young as early childhood and perfected over a lifetime. Religious and secular-minded people may disagree on the source, but they all agree on this—your conscience is real and it can guide you in all that you do.

In A Doorway Back to Forever: Believe, Robyn learns of her own Skyborn heritage, her own connection to a higher force. In order to grow strong as a Skyborn warrior and in order to defeat the powers of Midnight, she must face tests and challenges that will give her courage and strength—but she is not expected to do this alone. Robyn is given a gift—an orb. It is a walnut-sized crystal ball filled with liquid and starshine from the Eternal Fountains of Forever. In a sense, the orb acts to guide her conscience. It pulses and sings when a situation is safe. It changes colors for different warnings. It even boils a fiery red at the onset of danger. The orb helps Robyn to make choices—following the promptings of the still small voice she holds precious in her hand.

We all have an inner orb in our heart. If we listen we can learn its song and follow it just as Robyn learned. Unlike Robyn, our orb is not something we can physically hold. Wouldn't it be neat if we could? Wouldn't it be amazing to hold it in our hands, to watch it work, to hear it sing, and to feel its warmth?

But wouldn't it also be dangerous to lose it…?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A to Z Challenge: N is for...NOW!

 N is for now…!

I want a starter’s pistol to go off every time I need to act on something NOW!

No false starts, no procrastination—pure preparation, finding your spot at the starter’s line, then the anticipation of the shot that announces, “There’s no turning back.”

“On your mark, get set, GO!”

 And I go!

Four years ago I got excited about the race to get my novel written and published. But I kept leaping to the sound of false pistols. I had this amazing idea with no skills as a novelist to write.

My first draft was too short and full of every mistake a writer could make. I sent it to an editor and she gently told me to learn the craft…ouch! But not really, because I knew she was right.

I read, studied, took online courses, went to workshops, wrote, re-wrote, sweated, slaved, felt inspiration, felt like giving up—everything. The next year rolled around and I thought I had it—another false start. For the life of me, I could not see the POV issues I had. I kept writing in third person omniscient! It was like the sea glass on the beach—I couldn’t see my mistakes until someone pointed them out. ARGH!

But I kept at it and got better. More study, more reading, more writing, more ideas, more editing, more critiques. I seemed to get past some major problems—plot structure, POV, but I still had issues with showing vs. telling. And my main characters were all the wrong ages. The false start sent me back to the locker room again for a major overhaul.

So, last year I worked my fingers to the bone. I submitted a few chapters to one critique group and I got a request from another group to read through the overhaul—for the first time I heard comments like, “You’ve learned a lot. You’re on the right track. I couldn’t put it down.”

Wow. Were they telling me I was ready to stand at the starter’s line? Will I hear the right starter’s pistol go off? I’ve been mistaken in the past, I didn’t want another false start.

 Time will tell. But for the first time in four years, I feel like the time is now—! Really now. This year. I’ve learned to wait for the starter’s pistol—the right one—and the wait has made all the difference.

But when it goes off, there’s no turning back! This book will be published!